The Secret DOS

The Little Emperor Strikes Back

You don’t have to be mad to work here

And so we come to the end of another year of teaching. And for some reason, hopefully entirely unconnected to me personally, mental health issues are rearing their heads at work. At times it seems like the entire team is batshit crazy (and I should stress -baddaboom- that I actually mean that in a loving sense rather than my usual haughty dismissive judgemental tone).  In all seriousness, I have never been more aware of the high levels of stress, anxiety and outright depression than in the recent past. Do you want to hear my views on the whole business? Well, if you read on, you’re going to whether you want to or not. Continue reading

09 Dec 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I’m an asshole

Passive aggression…how could I have blogged so many posts without dedicating an entire one to this phenomenon of the modern workplace? It’s quite a fascinating phenomenon, actually. It’s such a widespread tactic that people employ and where I have the pleasure of working, I can think of at least a quarter of my team who regularly employ it as a means of dealing with things they don’t like. Continue reading

08 Nov 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In the midst of life, we are in death

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Life is difficult – well done, Buddha, for spotting that one. It might have passed me by completely otherwise.

At work, the staffroom is punctuated with loud noise from time to time throughout the day. In class, my tiny little coterie of students are in two camps, one of which has no inclination whatsoever to learn English; in the boardroom, idiots are trying to concoct a model that is both utterly impossible to deliver and utterly pointless in its design; buzzwords are seized upon by the makers and shakers and turned into diktats.

ELT, I have never hated you as much as I hate you right now. Continue reading

05 Nov 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Go on now, GO! Walk out the door!

Events over the last few days have made me reflect…well, actually, have made me feel superior. It occurs to me that we rarely enjoy anything better than occupying the moral high ground. I don’t think that this is an individual character flaw, but something hardwired into humans. We like being right, but we like it even more when someone else is wrong. Might there, I wondered, be perfectly good evolutionary reasons for this? Might it be that we reinforce behaviour that keeps the species alive by feelings of smug self-righteousness and ostracism of the deviants? Maybe. Maybe not… Continue reading

13 Dec 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

You’re shit, and you know you are!

For those who are beginning to worry about just what sort of ship I run, the title is a football chant, not how I go about giving feedback to teachers. And this is what I thought I’d write about today – how to give feedback…more specifically, how to give negative feedback…constructive feedback.

Following the last post about observations, there was an interesting exchange of opinions both here and on Twitter. The comments here seem to be centred around whether or not observations serve any real purpose (and the evidence seems to suggest that they don’t serve very much). The debate on Twitter was more about my apparent hardline stance on not sugar-coating the pill.

In no small measure down to my own shortcomings as a writer, I had left people aghast. They thought I was “angry” and “need[ed] to chill.” If I was like this, I was warned, I “would end up getting hated [by teachers]”. I was advocating a position where “feelings come second.” I should be careful not to become the worst kind of back seat driver…reminding me of my grandmother who used to sit behind me and helpfully point in the direction I needed to be going…

Let us move on…

Continue reading

29 Oct 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What’s the point?

In the recent training event, there was a role-play where one person was the “awkward” teacher and the other was the manager, giving feedback after an observation. In our group, I was the manager and my colleague was a teacher who just didn’t see the point in it all. Isn’t the main thing that my students are all happy, she asked. Isn’t the rest of it all just bureaucracy? The question we should never lose sight of is, indeed, What’s the point of it all? Anyone who tells you that they know the answer is either wrong or lying back on their deathbed, about to croak.

What is the point of it all? There’s too much life in the Secret DoS for me to be able to give you the answer. But I’ll tell you one thing now (for free): whatever you think is the point of it all most definitely is not the point of it all. Damn! I appear to have written myself into a corner. Humour me if I write on by considering a few of the more commonplace views.

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21 Oct 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments


The other day, I attended a training/development session about observations. For most of the time, I had to swallow my bile as the usual hackneyed dross was piped out. How should we give feedback? Supportively! Always focus on the good! Point out areas “for development” and the recalcitrant teacher will see the light.In every lesson I observe, I learn something myself!” WHAT THE ACTUAL FLUX?! C’MON, SHEEPLE! To paraphrase (somewhat criminally) R.E.M., Everybody sucks, sometimes. In the style of Rafa Benitez, here we go: Continue reading

17 Oct 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

On dealing with difficult people

This, as I believe I have said before, is a tired old saw where I work. If Senior Management want Middle Management to excel in any given area and if a measure of what that area might be can be deduced from the training that is provided, even Doctor Watson would see that the area of Dealing with Difficult People is the area du jour.

As I sit in these training sessions, I more often than not end up secretly thinking, “What a big pile of hairy bollocks this is.” Continue reading

07 Oct 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Am big, you wuss

Something that has fascinated me fairly fixedly over the last couple of years is just how inefficient and ineffective our minds are. It all began with me trying to get a grip on what was going on at work. People seemed to be behaving really strangely – I was behaving perfectly coherently and rationally, I thought. I have listed elsewhere the books that I started reading, so won’t do so again. But this morning I had the thought of beginning a simple series that might explore some of the known cognitive biases and how they relate to this thing of ours. Today, for no other reason than it tops the list of cognitive biases on Wikipedia, I present you with the ambiguity effect.

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01 Dec 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 2 Comments


I have spent this term trying to establish an approach to language learning that will allow students to feel that they have some control over their progress. Learning a language, it seems to me, is easiest when you know Sweet Fanny Adams. At this point in your career, everything is new and not a day goes by (should go by) when you don’t learn something that you didn’t know before. By the time you get past these halcyon days, it all becomes a bit of a drudge and you begin to lose interest. Or worse, you come to my office and moan about how you’re not learning anything and placing the blame for your ineffectiveness on your poor, long-suffering teacher. When I was learning my L2, I had one of the worst language teachers I have ever met. She would begin to go through the class with the question, How are you? starting in the top left hand corner and working her way methodically to the bottom right hand corner. Did I feel that she hampered my learning? No. How could she? It was my learning…it just meant that I didn’t learn much from her teaching…which is not the same as saying that I didn’t learn much from her…

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30 Nov 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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